Elevating our experience of the great art of entertainment, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra (ABO) and those masters of human movement the Brisbane based Circa Contemporary Circus, stretched the boundaries of our imagination when they performed their fabulous concert Spanish Baroque in the Elisabeth Murdoch Recital Hall at the Melbourne Recital Centre on Saturday evening May 13, 2017.
Artists all, they re-invented the dynamics between the earthy ever-inspiring and uplifting music from the Baroque era, which when combined with contemporary human movement as a vision of unity, gave the very enthusiastic audience a gift of cultural enrichment.
An enthralling captivating outcome, the whole experience of musicians and acrobats together creating beauty through music and movement was theatrically, an apotheosis of the sublime.
The Baroque period in music (1600 – 1750) showcases the composers who with great creativity, combined brilliantly philosophical thought and musical aesthetics to render and translate into music the passions, preferences and affections of modern man. They had a growing urge to explore monumental forms through virtuosity and ornament. This happened over time until it reached a pinnacle with polished, powerful and yet graceful forms, as it did here.
Gradually the spectator became integral to the performance; both watching and listening as the music became the spirit of the soul, resonating with joyous abandon throughout the acoustically wonderful Elisabeth Murdoch Hall. The standing ovation was well-deserved.
The music was performed stylishly, and with pathos on period instruments by Paul Dyer on Organ and Harpsichord, Shaun Lee-Chen, Matt Bruce and Ben Dollman on Baroque Violin, Jamie Hey on Baroque Cello, Rob Nairn on double bass, Brian Nixon and Jess Ciampa on Percussion and Tommie Andersson on Theorbo and a special guest from Rome, Stefano Maiorana on Baroque guitar.
The close collaboration between artistic directors Paul Dyer (ABO) and Yaron Lifeschitz (Circa) was inspiring, as they fulfilled their aim of ‘transporting their audience to another time and place’.
The music of Spain is both vivid and spontaneous. It quite literally runs in my veins on my mother’s side through a male Spanish ancestor from the seventeenth century, the age of the Baroque. Since childhood I have been entirely seduced by its sensational sights and sounds.
Spain is a melting pot of many and varied cultures; the Castilians, Catalonians, Lusitanians, Galician’s, Basques, Jewish, Romans, Arabs and the Roma (Gypsies) among other peoples, all of whom have much to offer and have contributed so vividly to the world’s heritage.
The show started with a familiar foot-stamping dance and ended one and a half hours later with a roof raising rousing passionate street dance of imposing majesty, written for performing in a place where it is said the ‘dead are more alive than the dead of any other country in the world’.
My favourite instrumental work thoughtfully created a brief pause in proceedings, a stunning Anonymous song Muerto estáis (arr. Dyer, Egüez & Palmer) an exploration of both pain and loss, it was simple yet glorious.
For me the success of such a concert lies in the programming of its music. In this case it was thoughtfully chosen by Paul Dyer AO as a whole, and played by an extremely talented virtuoso group of musicians. With heart rendering passion, they emboldened the acrobatic artists to synchronise their movements with split second timing.
Percussionists Brian Nixon and Jess Ciampa had a hey-day on drums, castanets, triangle and tambourines, providing a pulsating rhythm that gave a solid groundwork for the whole.
A Professor of Lute Performance in Terni at the Instituto Superiore di Studi Musicali Briccialdi, Stefano Maiorana proved to have the Midas touch, as with great sensitivity and formidable technique his own performance glowed golden in the red mist hazed light.
New Zealand born soprano Natasha Wilson was a class act. Her ‘early music’ voice provided yet another layer of beauty, while providing emotional unity to the whole, especially when wandering among all the performers singing the delicately balanced love song Su la cetra amorosa (On the amorous lyre) by an Italian composer of the early seventeenth century, Tarquinio Merula (1595-1665).
This was a highlight both for her and the audience. Then there was La Mare de Deu, another wondrous Traditional Catalan Song as well as other works that were truly enthralling.
Eight Circa performers Caroline Baillon, Timothy Fyffe, Scott Grove, Rowan Heydon-White, Gerramy Marsden, Conor Neall, Kathryn O’Keefe and Billie Wilson-Coffey were entirely mesmerising.
Their unity and trust in each other a joy to behold and watching this very special a group of performers for whom light and space are limitless, was a very special experience for both my companion and I.
They set everyone’s hearts a-racing with breathtaking routines that took us from an elaborate pole dance like no other performed with impressive nonchalance by Conor Neall, to a daring dance with a kitchen table and a dizzying routine on a swing, the latter magically performed to Antonio Vivaldi’s stunning La Folia (Folly or Madness).
The mood setting lighting bathed everyone favourably in its passionate light while the costuming was both earthy and grounded.
The concert came to a climax with the Circa performers and guest artists embracing the dramatic sounds of music of the Passacaglia Andaluz, a dance that has its origins on city streets, and like those surviving in such places, adapts and changes through on the spot improvisation.
This passionate musical form emerged out of Spain into Europe and England where it inspired some of the greatest of all the Baroque composers, men like France’s Jean Baptiste Lully, England’s Henry Purcell and Germany’s J.S Bach.
This particular work crafted originally for the Australian Brandenburg’s Aria treasure, their award-winning album of 2010 Tapas on which the conception for this concert was based, was in every way a thrilling end to a very special evening of performance art excellence.
Judging by comments made as we emerged into a crisp cold autumn Melbourne night, the sold-out audience for Spanish Baroque were left warm with rapturous delight.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Circa Contemporary Circus
Dyer Entrada dinámica y ruidosa
Murcia Canarios (arr. Dyer & Palmer)
Merula Su la cetra amorosa
Murcia Fandango (arr. Maiorana & Palmer)
Anonymous Muerto estáis (arr. Dyer, Egüez & Palmer)
Albéniz Leyenda ‘Asturias’ (arr. Palmer)
Narváez Con qué la lavaré (arr. Coelho)
Vivaldi La Folia
Traditional La mare de Déu (arr. Palmer)
Anonymous Villancico ‘Rodrigo Martinez’ (arr. Dyer & Palmer)
Traditional La dama d’Aragó (arr. Palmer)
Murcia Jácara (arr. Maiorana & Palmer)
Improvisation Passacaglia Andaluz
90minutes, no interval